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2007-03 Fifteen minutes of Fame, burnt by media flame

Anna Nicole Smith came from nothing. But the small-town Texan girl was
determined to make something of herself, and for most of her life never lived
far from the spotlight.

 

Anna Nicole fascinated celebrity-watchers, and yet, was really just another celebrity who was `famous for being famous'.

The world watched as she married 89 year-old billionaire J Howard Marshall II, then fought his heirs over his $1.6 billion estate, and won. She battled publicly with her weight, appeared on "Playboy" magazine cover with new-improved breasts, played bit-parts in movies, and did her stint on reality TV. Anna Nicole's public celebrated as she gave birth to her little baby girl, and mourned as she grieved the tragic loss of her 20 year-old son. Anna Nicole lived big, but her recent tragic demise shows once more how fleeting the concept of `celebrity' can be.

No prizes for guessing that Anna Nicole's screen idol was Marilyn Monroe, and even though Anna Nicole possessed little or none of Marilyn's star quality, she has disappeared prematurely in much the same way Marilyn did. Even now Anna Nicole has gone, she remains top of the news across the USA. Like her idol, Anna Nicole's death is, for the moment anyway, shrouded in mystery.

So perhaps this is yet more proof that the American pop-artist Andy Warhol was right to coin the phrase that " in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes"? His perhaps exaggerated concept even led to a unit of fame or hype called `the Warhol', the `kilowarhol' and `megawarhol', depending on how long this fake celebrity status lasted. The public attach themselves to celebrity, and when the public's attention span has been exhausted, for whatever reason, they move to something else. The world is fascinated by fame and celebrity, and the media seem to be able to make anyone famous.

Achieving fame and celebrity has become easier and easier, but holding onto that new-found fame seems harder. There is no guide-book on how to handle that `fifteen minutes of fame'.

The appalling phenomenon of Reality TV means that anyone willing to allow a TV programme to place him or her in an unnatural public goldfish bowl will achieve their `fifteen minutes of fame', no matter how lacking in talent or personality they may be. It seems that you don't have to do anything, be anything or know anything to gain celebrity status anymore, however fleeting that status may be. Look at X-Factor and Pop Idol auditionees.

Nowhere does this seem more real than with the recent eviction of Jade Goody from the "Celebrity Big Brother House". By appearing in a previous "Big Brother" Jade became famous, and amassed an £8 million fortune by losing weight, having breast implants, doing the usual fitness DVD, biography, and creating her own perfume. But, like Pygmalion, in the same way Eliza Doolittle screamed "Move your bloomin arse&", Jade messed up, and was unable to sustain her new-found status, sabotaging her lucrative career. Her personal and racist attacks on the beautiful Bollywood `real star' Shilpa Shetty showed Jade up for what she really was  the antithesis of Shilpa's elegance and class.

Eight million people watched Jade's eviction - her fall from fame - like some sort of grotesque circus. The show which had created her destroyed her. Perhaps the British society made her, then broke her. Her eviction was like a 21st century stoning, a sort of `virtual execution'. One girl, famous for her ignorance, caused so much scandal even the British Prime Minister talked about it in the Commons. As Jade's career goes into free fall, the public wait to see if Jade can save her celebrity status.

Fame seems easy to achieve, but harder to sustain.